Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bahamas: There and back again

Okay, I know everyone is already jealous, but our trip to Southern Florida/Keys/The Bahamas was incredible! I wish we had taken more pictures of everything, but I think that's usually how you feel no matter how many pictures you took.

I'll break down our trip, where we stayed, what we did.

Day One:

  • Flew into Fort Lauderdale Hollywood Int'l Airport and immediately enjoyed the warm weather and humidity.
  • Picked up rental car at Budget.We were upgraded from a Hyundai Accent to a Dodge Charger. WOOT! Dad let us borrow a GPS, so we wouldn't pay $30 a day for one that I've never used before. 
  • Checked into The Westin Colonnade at Coral Gables, FL. Pretty good location!
  • Picked up some authentic Italian just down the street per the concierge's recommendation and ate in room. It hit the spot and we went straight to bed.
Trent is guarding his excitement in this picture; He was THRILLED
View of Coral Gables with Miami in background.
Day Two:
  • Woke early, caught Einstein's for breakfast and hit the road to Key Largo.
  • Arrived to hear that boat was having problems at Key Largo Scuba Shack. :(
  • Drove 5 mins up the road to hang out at John Pennekamp State Park. First underwater park in U.S.
  • Soaked up sun on beach, watched sting rays from shore and explored a mangrove forest.
  • Called up Reef Roamers in Key Largo and caught the 12:30 catamaran snorkel tour.
  • Snorkeled two different sites, seeing lots of fish and beautiful coral and plants. Surprisingly different underwater scenery from what I'm used to in Hawaii. I'd never seen parrot fish pushing two and a half feet! And Trent saw a grouper that was over three feet long. YIKES.
  • Returned to land famished, so we bought a large pizza at Papa John's and devoured it in the parking lot!
  • Revisited State Park for some UV rays on the beach and then drove back to Coral Gables.
  • Relaxed in hotel room while preparing for cruise the next day! We had to rearrange our bags a bit.
John Pennekamp State Park at 9:00 a.m. Gorgeous!

Exploring the mangroves (famous trees in my book!)
On the catamaran to our two snorkeling sites

It was wonderful to return back to our amazing bed and posh hotel room :)
    Day Three:

    • Were supposed to explore Everglades, however the front desk proved difficult when checking out. Took an extra hour out of our morning and so we missed the Everglades altogether. I'm still quite bummed about this one, but I really don't have room to complain. 
    • Headed to Miami for some lunch and ended up at Burger King. Downtown Miami is like little's a bit weird and none of the food places on the GPS sounded good or within our budget.
    • Dropped off Charger at Budget and happened to run into George, who offered us a ride to the Port for $16. What a deal! We had fun talking to him and listening to his stories while riding in his clean minivan. :)
    • Arrived at Port and made it on the boat within 15 minutes! I had always heard that the lines can get really long early in the day. This was not the case. First destination on board: Windjammer Cafe to start our gluttonous habits.
    • Soaked up sun, explored the decks, rooms, and everything then took a much needed nap.
    • Emergency drill a.k.a. "The Muster Drill" was held on Deck 7 where Trent ran into some Brazilians and they all talked.
    • Dinner was great: NY steaks, Mediterranean salads, and desserts. Met Vicky and Mark, our tablemates. They were a bit odd, but they probably thought the same of us since we weren't drinking! EVERYONE on the boat drinks. It's astounding!
    • Attended Evening Social on the boat with comedian Joe Demore (?) and had a good laugh
    • Hit up late night buffet for more food! We were always hungry and eating :) but that's part of the fun
    • Soaked in the hot tub and watched some March Madness on the pool deck.
    Downtown Miami had flower shops like these on many corners. I loved it! So many Cuban influences and stores in this area.

    On the boat and out sunbathing by 3:00 ! SWEET!

    Sunbathing while still in Port. South Beach is quite crowded, but beautiful.

    As we pulled out of Port, Trent was so anxious to catch a glimpse of everything :)

      Day Four:
      • Coco Cay was just outside our window and after grabbing some buffet breakfast, we caught a tender at 9:30.
      • Beautiful island! We sought out a spot far away on a more private beach and enjoyed the quiet calm.
      • Waded through the water, watched fish, jellies, and a baby shark in the shallows.
      • Explored other parts of the island: hammocks, nature trails, and the straw market.
      • Ran into people from Brazil all the time and Trent enjoyed speaking with them or eavesdropping. hehe. One of the men he spoke to said that Trent spoke better than his sister! They recognized his obvious Fortaleza accent and had a good laugh about it. 
      • The buffet lunch was complete with BBQ, a Reggae band, and lots of people watching to do!
      • Headed to the parasailing dock where Trent was whisked away for an hour or so. I watched from a lounge chair on land. So nice!
      • Caught a tender back early to the ship to avoid long lines and get out of the sun... we were burned!!
      • Opted for casual dinner instead of our formal dining arrangements and went back for plate after plate of delicious foods! I branched out and chose some Indian food smothering amazing Basmati rice. Perfection!
      CocoCay was beautiful and perfectly quiet!

      We pretty much had a private beach until 11:30. So tranquil!
      The water was a bit warm and just incredible! I couldn't believe the clarity!

      Small jellyfish we found. There were several turned upside down in the shallows, highcentered and still swimming strong.

      Everywhere we went in the Bahamas, there were hammocks. What smart people....they know what I like!

      Fish in ankle deep water. They weren't shy, either!

      A great, jam-packed day.

      Day Five (Get ready, this was a jam-packed day!):
      • Woke up to Port of Nassau out the window! What a colorful beachfront. Locals everywhere below and lots of mopeds.
      • Grabbed a delicious buffet lunch of eggs, bacon, and the works at the Cafe.
      • Walked off boat and through security screenings. No stamp in passport :( I was disappointed.
      • Boarded the Blue Lagoon catamaran for a 40-minute ride to the island. Gorgeous waves and sights.
      • Pulled into Blue Lagoon, where Gilligan's Island was filmed and were briefed for our Sea Lion Encounter.
      • Donned wetsuits and met Maggie and then PJ, two California Sea Lions. We had our pictures taken and spend the next 40 minutes playing with PJ in the water. And twice we received wet, fishy kisses on the lips! We loved every minute, though.
      • We enjoyed watching the other areas filled with dolphins and people interacting. Such smart animals!
      • Picked a place on the beach and asked the local lifeguard about places to snorkel. We threw on our gear and saw fish and a very large, dead lobster in the shallow waters. The lifeguard even came over on the far side of the beach at one point to check on us. How nice!
      • The locals of the Bahamas are for the most part, friendly, polite people. I was impressed!
      • Laid out on the beach and warmed up while swaying in nice to enjoy a hammock everywhere we went! I think that everyone should own one. They do wonders for the soul.
      • After snorkeling and reheating our bodies in the sun (the water and wind combo made it cold when we emerged from the water) we said goodbye to our dolphin and sea lion friends and caught the catamaran back to mainland.
      • Shopping in town was our objective and we found a lot of key chains, mugs, t-shirts, etc. that all made reference to drinking and being drunk...or immoral things. It was sad. A lot of the trade centers around alcohol for these people in the Bahamas. Nevertheless, we shopped up until most of the stores were about to close to find souvenirs for everyone. Trent bought his traditional shot glass (to add to his ever-growing collection currently at 70+) and I bought a pair of earrings from a pleasant lady right on Bay Street. She has been making earrings now for two years and they were beautiful! Everything from black oyster which is extremely rare, to small sea shells and a conch's foot! We walked away with a pair of mussel earrings, which always remind me of my childhood in San Diego.
      • Dinner this night was excellent as always! Tiger Shrimp Scampi, chilled Raspberry-Pineapple Soup, Lamb Shank, Tomato Caprese Salad, and Flourless Chocolate cake. MMMMmmmMMM! We tipped our servers and thanked them for their excellent, unmatched service. I sincerely miss the food and being able to eat almost 24/7.
      • We had such an awesome day that we had a hard time winding down. We caught the on-board movie that night: Titanic. haha. How ironic!
      Nassau, Bahamas! Crazy drivers, lots of conch shell stands :)

      The tower for Gilligan's Island

      Blue Lagoon Island ! Gorgeous weather, waves, and sand beaches

      Blue Lagoon Beach

      Trent looked like Rambo.....without a gun. LOL. LOVE HIM.

        Day Six:
        • We woke up to the sound of the thrusters and anchors dropping. It was time to disembark the ship :( We gathered our things and said goodbye to Deck 5 at 9 a.m. 
        • Trent purchased shuttle tickets to get us back to Fort Lauderdale airport the day before through Guest Services. Our bus was ready as soon as we weaved through Customs and Security checkpoints. 
        • Arrived at the airport at 10:30.....Oh joy! Our plane doesn't leave until 7 p.m. What are we going to do for eight hours?! We spent a good three hours playing intense versions of the "Dot Game". 
        • Time at the airport was a brutal wake up call that we weren't in Paradise anymore: loud sounds everywhere, no Royal Caribbean workers with smiles and greetings. Just a lot of grumpy and incredibly incapable Delta workers. 
        • Finally boarded flight, stopping in Atlanta, and returned home at 12:15 a.m. What an end to a long day!

          Friday, March 11, 2011

          Mid-Terms and Moving

          Ahh the joys of being a married-college student! I need to keep reminding myself that these times will be cherished in our memories for years to come. We'll look back and say, "My, how did we do all of those things?" and "We were so poor, yet so happy." haha. Life is great, but it is crazy busy. Take this week, for example. Trent had three tests this week and I, one. We are packing up and moving this weekend. We are also packing for our cruise vacation this coming Wednesday. I'm not complaining about going on a fantastic vacation, but the timing of it all seems all too unreal--mid-term exams at school, moving with 10 days' notice, and packing for a week vacation. :)

          The 10-days' notice part was kinda our fault; And no, we're not being evicted ! We were selling our contract beginning in the month of April and we found a couple who was in a bind. They are getting married the 14th of March and when they came to look at the apartment, they hadn't yet found a place to live that would be available when they returned from their honeymoon. We are going on our vacation the same time they are honeymooning. How fun! We gave in and decided they would be the best people to live here and the best addition to our ward ( We love our ward, so yes, we've been screening the people that have been interested in the apartment. haha )

          This meant, however, that we needed to be moved out before our vacation so that they could immediately move in upon return. AHH! The reality sank in Monday of this week and it's been a very quick week filled with finding boxes, tying loose ends, and wrapping up our lives here at apartment 21. We've loved it and will very dearly miss our ward! We are moving in with Trent's parents this spring and summer to save some money. We recently learned that Trent has been accepted for a student 2011-12 school year exchange at the University of Kentucky. We'll only be going Fall semester, but this will be a great opportunity to network and learn more about the area. The U of K is one of our top five choices for Physician's Assistant school and was one of the only campuses that offered the exchange, so we thought What the heck, we'll check it out for a semester. (Well, it was more of a distinct impression, really...)

          So good things come from this week! Move out to save some money, burying my feet in the white sand of the Bahamas, and enjoying a change of scenery this Fall while still moving forward in school! Now if I could just find my other sandal to pack for the cruise!?